President Trump appears to be swiftly bending knee to the militarized foreign policy establishment, as he intends to approve weapons packages for Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The two Middle East dictatorships – with a long history of human rights abuses and violent crackdowns on dissent – are crucial to the strategy of U.S. military hegemony and the profits of weapons makers.
According to The Washington Times, U.S. officials and congressional sources confirmed $300 million worth of precision-guided missile technology is destined for Saudi Arabia, while Bahrain will get a multibillion-dollar F-16 deal. All is ready to go, awaiting clearance from the Trump administration.
“These are significant sales for key allies in the Gulf who are facing the threat from Iran and who can contribute to the fight against the Islamic State,” an anonymous official remarked. “Whereas the Obama administration held back on these, they’re now in the new administration’s court for a decision — and I would anticipate the decision will be to move forward.”
Bahrain, a small but oil-rich country strategically located in the Persian Gulf, is home to the U.S. 5th fleet and Central Command. As we reported in Dec. 2015, Bahraini security forces have cooperated with ISIS, and several ISIS recruits have come directly from Bahrain’s military.
In June 2014, Bahrain’s Information Minister, Sameera Rajab, tweeted that the advancing ISIS force might represent “a revolution against the injustice and oppression that has reigned over Iraq for more than 10 years.”
Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy has a history of brutally suppressing pro-democracy movements, using torture and other human rights violations to maintain power. In 2011, Saudi Arabia sent troops into Bahrain to help squash the Shia Muslim revolt.
The suppression of Shiite minorities is the common denominator with Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The Saudi kingdom is a hotbed of support for ISIS, which has to do with the fact that the state-sanctioned religious clergy teaches a radical form of Islam known as Wahhabism.
The Saudi monarchy is the number 1 beheader in the world — yes more than ISIS — racking up 100 public executions since January 2016, including 47 people in one day. Despite all of this, the U.S. has enlisted Saudi Arabia to carry out a proxy war in Yemen, where they have killed an untold number of civilians and bombed hospitals and schools.
President Trump appears eager to continue and expand this partnership with the Sunni dictatorships, where Trump also happens to have business ties. The unifying goal with all three players is maintaining the dominance of Sunni Arab countries in the Middle East and countering the influence of Shiite-dominated Iran.
Team Trump has expressed a particular vehemence for Iran, with National Security Advisor Mike Flynn stating Iran is “on notice,” although no evidence of actual threats posed by Iran has been provided. It is widely assumed among Americans that Iran poses some kind of danger to the U.S., even though they haven’t attacked anyone in 200 years and have agreed to a historic nuclear deal with the five members of the U.N. Security Council.
The unfounded hostility toward Iran demonstrates the effectiveness of the U.S. propaganda machine, which must always have a bogeyman to justify military hegemony in the Middle East. The claim that Iran is the biggest destabilizing force in the Middle East is absurd when we consider the decades of wars and interventions carried out by the U.S. in the interest of securing the flow of oil.
There is significant bipartisan resistance in Congress to the weapons for Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, but that will likely be overcome as a renewed hostility toward Iran takes shape, and the purveyors of endless war see new opportunity with the Trump administration.
Efforts to block sales have failed, though, as the military-industrial complex has spread its manufacturing facilities all over the U.S. in order to secure support from as many lawmakers as possible.
The anonymous U.S. official, in an expert use of doublespeak, used the Saudi violations in Yemen to justify the new arms sale.
“While we’re very concerned about Saudi actions in Yemen in terms of the civilian casualties, we believe a more accurate partner is a more effective partner and results in fewer casualties,” said the official. “If they’re going to drop stuff, it should be precision-guided rather than dumb.”
While Trump’s eagerness to fan the flames of U.S. military hegemony and continue enriching the military-industrial complex is disappointing, it is a continuation of the status quo. Obama “offered more than $115 billion worth of weapons to Riyadh in 42 separate deals between 2009 and 2016 — more than any U.S. administration in history.”
The American populace is routinely fed the line that U.S. actions in the Middle East are noble – to spread democracy – but the reality is one of propping up dictatorships that make it easier for U.S. hegemony to thrive.